One last bash with Borderlands 3 before release proves you really shouldn’t commit to your fave guns, with so many attractive alternatives waiting to be looted.
You can’t spell ‘cooperative’ without ‘operative’, and when it comes to the Borderlands series, cooperative is the operative word as far as we’re concerned.
Such was the case at a recent preview event that showcased a few more hours of solo content and, more important to this particular Vault Hunter, co-op play. That’s because, confession time, we’ve never seen Borderlands as a solo series. Sure, you can loot and shoot on your lonesome, but fragging waves of fools and bagging mountains of tools has always felt like a hot dish best enjoyed with company.
That said, Borderlands 3 works hard to still have appeal for the lonesome wasteland tamers. “On the mission design side and narrative side we really wanted to keep the Borderlands tradition of having a really good story that you can experience, either co-op or single player,” says level designer Matt Higgins. “So we didn’t want players to miss events while playing with friends. It works great both ways. We spent a lot of time on that.”
“…we really wanted to keep the Borderlands tradition of having a really good story…”
Even during those solo hours of the preview session, there was a constant rain of distractions to keep us entertained. The larger-than-life weirdness returns with a cast of old and new faces who do a great job of eliciting IRL LOLs while you lose yourself in the loot-frag-repeat gameplay loop. Start a main mission. Get distracted by shiny side quests. Eviscerate everything on the way. Score a militia-load of new weapons. Find a fave fragger or two, then fall out of love with them any time you find a new shiny shooter.
What will likely keep you focused on the main path is the presence of two love-to-hate-’em main villains: the Calypso twins. “With the villains, we didn’t want to just copy what Jack did in Borderlands 2,” explains Higgins. “We want to make it just as memorable, but go in a slightly different direction just so they stand out from what you’ve faced before. The Calypso twins are like new media streamers that have gathered together this cult following. This time all the bandit clans have joined together, whereas in previous games, they’ve all been small little groups of bandits.”
Early on, the Calypso Twins prove themselves a threat worth respecting, but you’ll have to tackle some equally memorable peons on the way to dishing out their inevitable just desserts in the Pandoran deserts. Or potentially beyond: Borderlands 3 is an interstellar affair. Shiv is the first boss you’ll tackle: a one-armed goon who quite literally brings a knife to a gunfight.
“…the Calypso Twins prove themselves a threat worth respecting…”
Later on, appropriately armed Mouthpiece offers a tougher battle, blocking frontal attacks with a shield as minions swarm and high-powered speakers sporadically knock you flat. When downed, the ‘fight for your life’ mechanic returns, giving you a chance to avoid a nearby New-U respawn station by killing an enemy to score a second wind.
This adds a level of fun strategy and nervy health management where you might be incentivised to harm but not finish foes in case you’re downed. Depending on which Vault Hunter you’re using and which skills you’ve selected, this task can be easier. FL4K, for instance, is a robotic Beastmaster who can make use of tamed critters to put the hurt on enemies.
Equally handy for holding enemies in place or giving you an automatic second wind if they kill at the right time, these creature companions add a new gameplay style that helps to set Borderlands 3 apart from its predecessors. You can spec FL4K in such a way to facilitate better co-op play, too.
“FL4K’s pets have the ability to resurrect players while they’re down,” says Higgins. By the way, that includes the player who owns the pets as well as other players in the co-op session. One of Moze’s abilities is attaching a turret to the back of her mech and a second player can jump on the back of that and use it as a target. We’ve got a lot of ways that players can use the Vault Hunters together to tackle the combat.”
This turret add-on is purely a co-op upgrade as it takes another player to control it. Similarly, Zane has the upgrade option of dropping a shield for other players to huddle behind. Given the diversity of abilities, it makes sense that these four new Vault Hunters in a game that supports four-player co-op have been built with these kinds of player synergies in mind.
There’s an impressive depth in each respective skill tree, too, which means that even players using the same Vault Hunter can be rewarded for playing together.
Players will feel the tug to create multiple characters, whether it’s for solo vs co-op play, or just to have new gameplay experiences across characters. Either way, despite the necessary level restart, there are, mercifully, ways to make the process feel less like a grind.
“We have a storage bank where, if you find a good weapon on one character or a class mod that would work well with a different character, you can save that and play with another character and they’ll come and pick it up,” says Higgins. “You can share loot between your characters. You can also mail loot to your friends as well.”
Alternatively, you can just hoard everything. This is Borderlands after all. Whether you want to play solo, cooperatively or co-petitively, Borderlands 3 has you covered. There’s no judgement. But there is a star system stuffed with loot and armies larger than PewDiePie’s followers to spend countless hours reaping.